Howards End and On Beauty: Understanding Smith's Parallels College
Even without reading the acknowledgments in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, it is extremely apparent that she derives her inspiration from E. M. Forster’s Howards End. From the first line, the reader is able to start drawing parallels between the two novels. Surprisingly, Smith did not borrow her title from Forster’s novel. Instead, it comes from Elaine Scarry’s essay, On Beauty and Being Just, which begins with the claim that “Beauty brings copies of itself into being” (Scarry 3). With this, Smith is nodding to the beauty of Forster’s novel by beautifully imitating it in a modern-day American version. While she takes a modern approach to Forster’s condition-of-England novel, she maintains the central characters and conflicts that pervade the classic novel. Smith’s novel, like Forster’s classic, concentrates on the conflicts between two families from opposite ends of the ethical and political spectrum. These clashes present the reader with significant insight into the issues of the time. Just as Forster addresses issues of class and feminism in his novel, Smith tackles issues such as race, opportunity and intellect. Through her use of similar characters, plot points and reactions to beauty, Smith revamps the classic novel originally...
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